Payroll Job Duties and Responsibilities

Research what it takes to become a payroll employee. Learn about the job duties, educational requirements and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Payroll Clerk?

Payroll and timekeeping clerks are financial clerks who oversee the proper compensation of other employees. They compile information about workers' salaries and/or the number of hours worked, and they issue paychecks based on that information. Before issuing the checks, they verify their accuracy and make any necessary adjustments. In addition, payroll clerks are responsible for making sure that the checks are issued according to the schedule established by the company for which they work.

More information for this career can be found in the table below:

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent; postsecondary education preferred
Training Required On-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Calculate compensation accounting for all variables, maintain a pay schedule, incorporate new employees
Certification Voluntary certification available
Job Growth (2014-24) -3%* (payroll and timekeeping clerks)
Median Salary (2015) $41,000* (payroll and timekeeping clerks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties and Responsibilities Can I Expect?

Payroll employees calculate, track and manage the processing of salaries payable to a company's employees. If you work in the field, you are typically required to calculate deductions, benefits, vacation, sick leave and taxes. The payroll industry provides opportunities in clerical, management and technical areas. According to the American Payroll Association (APA), you can take on various duties in the field depending on your specific job title (www.americanpayroll.com.)

How Might I Earn an Entry-Level Position?

Entry-level positions in payroll typically require you to have a high school diploma and one year of office experience. If you obtain a clerical position, such as payroll clerk or assistant, you will perform general administrative duties, including filing, faxing and copying. As you advance, you may audit time and attendance, enter new employee information into the company's human resources system and perform changes to tax data or employment statuses.

How Can I Advance in the Field?

Senior positions typically require between two and five years experience and employers may also require you to have an associate's degree or certification. As a senior payroll employee, you perform the duties of clerical or entry-level positions, but you also take on additional responsibilities. You can expect to prepare financial statements and tax records, and calculate complex salary data. Furthermore, you may be required to train new payroll employees. As a payroll administrator, you may also perform additional duties, such as managing a small group of employees.

Advanced management positions may require you to have at least five to seven years of experience and a bachelor's degree in finance or a related discipline. As a payroll manager, supervisor or director, you will typically work in large companies. Your responsibilities are to manage the daily operation of the payroll department by overseeing payroll systems, tax records or benefits administration, and taking responsibility for direct reports.

What Certification Can I Get?

The American Payroll Association offers the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) and the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) credentials. The CPP, which is designed for experienced candidates, provides training in payroll concepts, compliance and management. The FPC focuses more on payroll concepts, processing and calculations.

What Can I Expect for the Outlook of This Career?

Technological advancements will continue to lessen the need for payroll and timekeeping clerks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects a 3% decrease in employment from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). You can increase your opportunities by completing a certification program and learning to handle complex payroll processes.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working as a payroll clerk, you get a job as a different kind of financial clerk. For instance, as a billing clerk, you would be responsible for calculating charges for a company's customers and sending out bills. You might also contact customers about account information if there is any confusion about billing. Another option is a position as a claims and policy processing clerk at an insurance company. This job involves reviewing insurance applications and implementing policy changes or cancellations based on customer requests. For either of these jobs, you need to have at least a high school diploma.

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